“Drive Me Crazy”: Celebrities and the Media (Layla Janoff)

23 Feb

“If Britney Spears can get through 2007, you can get through today” -inspirational poster in my friend’s office

To me, the above picture epitomizes our strange, celebrity-obsessed culture.  If in 50 years, someone were to unearth a time capsule from 2007, this photo would be the one I’d use to explain how things were back then.  In it we see a woman, presumably Britney Spears, but it is not the same Britney whose posters adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom.  This Britney is livid, bald, and wielding an umbrella.  The sad but true fact of the matter is that this may be the first time we ever caught a glimpse of the real Britney Spears, stripped of her carefully calculated public persona.  And though we saw countless warning signs before this incident, we ignored them because she’s a celebrity and celebrities are crazy.  Their antics are the lifeblood of tabloids and gossip blogs.  When it comes to famous people, it’s not enough just to document their every movement.  Our culture thrives on drama, both real and fabricated.  A celebrity pictured running a mundane errand becomes front page news, using any minor detail about his or her appearance to generate a scandalous headline.  When the drama is real, however, it’s ten times more newsworthy.  And with the advent of the Internet and online, user-dominated media, these moments are made public as soon as they happen.  There is no time to do damage control or to spin the story before it leaks, because smartphones have turned us all into fully functioning members of the paparazzi.  It doesn’t matter that these are actual human beings experiencing trauma.  The fact that they’re beautiful and wealthy overrides our sense of decency.  Their problems become fodder for criticism and judgment, because in our minds, they operate on an entirely different plane of existence from the rest of us.  This photo of Britney in 2007 is a prime example of that mentality.  This is not merely a beloved pop star’s fall from grace.  This is a woman in the midst of a complete mental collapse.  And yet, people were snapping pictures of her, probably shouting questions at her.  She is literally trying to fight them off with an umbrella, but they remain undeterred.  Because this picture is the ultimate jackpot; a once-in-a-lifetime, career-making opportunity.  The story of Britney Spears storming into a hair salon and angrily shaving her head one day after returning from rehab shocked the nation and generated an explosive public reaction.  In the years since this picture was taken, the fall and subsequent rehabilitation of Britney Spears as a marketable personality has been extensively monitored and reported on.  Though we are sympathetic to her problems and recognize that she clearly suffers from some kind of mental instability, we refuse to give her the one thing she needs: privacy.  And this, to me, is our culture’s problem in a nutshell.

 

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6 Responses to ““Drive Me Crazy”: Celebrities and the Media (Layla Janoff)”

  1. julialin21 February 23, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    I definitely agree with you on this being the issues with our culture. Unfortunately I’m almost positive that this has been happening ever since the “first” celebrity was born into this world. Humans are all curious, yes. We have a nature that urges us to unravel secrets and lives of others. Celebrities just make it easier for us to do so.

  2. col87 February 24, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Colleen Egan: I completely agree. I get that celebrates are people many want to know about but way too often those making these articles and pictures take things too far and cross the line. Maybe if people took these people off of the pestle society has put them on these stories might be less grabbed on by people. While there are celebrities that do stupid things and others who do not their privacy should be valued and people realizing that these are people and put themselves into the lives of the celebrities who have a camera in their life even when their front door closes.

  3. kimberlyspring2013 February 24, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    I think a bigger issue in our culture is the need to know. We NEED to know what our neighbor is doing. We NEED to know what our politicians are doing. Sometimes this need is beneficial because some people won’t do things just because people are watching. Other times, this need is harmful, as in Britney’s case.

  4. eschera February 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I completely agree with you but this is part of being a celebrity. Part of being famous is having no privacy. I don’t think this will change anytime soon.

  5. mayala1992 February 25, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    As a celebrity, you can’t expect to have much privacy. However, what bothers me most about the press and the paparazzi is that they will harass celebrities and find ways to give them negative images and reputations. The worst part is, that a lot of us feed into this because we are so curious and interested in knowing everything about these people that we don’t ACTUALLY know.

  6. bchristy February 26, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    This picture kind of reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend describing how celebrities really are the jesters of our time. They do seem to be around solely to entertain. And so I pose the same question I did my friend, “When the hell did the Jesters become the rulers of the castle?!”

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